The Right to Education Act in India requires non-government schools in India to admit 25 per cent students in the 6-14 age group belonging to marginalized sections of society from the 2011-12 academic session. The government will pay for the education of this section at the rate prevalent in government schools. No seats will be left vacant and admissions will be made through draw of lots. The aim is to provide education to every possible child by involving government and non-government schools without discrimination of any kind and ensure schools and teachers meet the laid-down guidelines. Since private schools often get subsidized land and are not required to pay taxes, they should not drag their feet in undertaking this noble cause.
The Right to Education Act in India is bound to erode private schools' profitability and force them to hire more teachers, the cost of which will be borne by the other students. Each school is required to furnish details of the expenditure incurred on the education of every child. This will make their accounts public – something non government schools hate to do. But it will also ensure greater transparency and curve fleecing of parents on one excuse or the other. Parents and local bodies will have a greater role in the management of private schools.
After some initial hesitation such schools in India have agreed to implement the Act. Some issues remain to be sorted out. If an underprivileged student drops out midway, will the government still pay the subsidy? The Act empowers the local authorities to ensure compliance of the specified norms. This may encourage bureaucratic interference as well as corruption in the functioning of private schools and discourage innovation in teaching. Officials should not be allowed to destroy good private schools. Beside, will children from modest backgrounds be able to cope with the examination-driven system without adequate financial and academic support from their families? In the absence of a level-playing field they may lag behind and face psycho-social pressures. A flexible, thoughtful approach is required for removal irritants and implementing an otherwise well-meaning Act.